North Lake Tahoe may be the most underrated spot I’ve ever been. With crystal clear water, glorious sunny weather and a plethora of activities, it’s the perfect paradise! After exploring the area in the fall season, I’ve got to say that it has to be one of the best times to visit. While the temperature may drop a few degrees, it is much less crowded and you’ll often find yourself having many spots all to yourself. There’s even a beautiful dusting of snow on the mountains surrounding the lake. Some locals called it “the secret season” and I totally agree.
If you’re interested in going to North Lake Tahoe, I’ve got a few tips for you. First, ensure you check the weather and head over on sunny days! Along with that, look into the wind report. I’d aim to be there for those calm days so that it’s easier to swim, stand-up paddle board and kayak. Along with water activities, calm water is also is more pleasing in photos. If you’re into photography, ensure you bring a polarizer so that you can cut glare from the sun out and capture the clear turquoise water.
How to get to North Lake Tahoe
There are a few ways you can get to North Lake Tahoe. One is flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and driving north and the second is flying into Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and driving two hours towards the lake. I chose the later and spent a day exploring the city. Sacramento, the capital of California, is filled with history and is incredibly quarky. We stopped at Mother, an artful vegetarian restaurant, for lunch before hitting the road. Since we booked three nights at the Granlibakken Tahoe, we headed there to kick off the trip! Once we got there, we settled in than went out to Tahoe City to grab some food (Rosie’s Cafe, Pioneer Cocktail Club and Tahoe Tap Haus are all great options). After we got a good night sleep, we spent the next few days soaking beautiful views at the following spots.
With this trail only being 1.5 miles round trip, it’s the perfect place to catch sunset. It only takes a quick hike up to get to a bluff that allows you to see a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe. It’s a great way to kick off your time here and get a grasp about how large the lake really is.
STAND-UP PADDLEBOARD AND KAYAK
One of the best things about visiting North Lake Tahoe is the abundance of water activities. My favourite memory of the trip was getting out on the water with a stand-up paddle board and kayak because I was able to explore the lake without being in the water (as it’s a bit chilly!). I’ll never forget gliding above the crystal clear turquoise water and feeling completely awe struck. I suggest checking out Tahoe Adventure Company if it’s your first time or if you’re looking for a tour. I was able to hop on a tour for a few hours and in that time I learnt a lot about the history of Lake Tahoe and even got to explore Speedboat Beach.
SAND HARBOR BEACH
This is one of Lake Tahoe’s breathtaking beaches with sandy shores, majestic boulders, and clear turquoise waters. If you have a stand-up paddle board or kayak, this is a great area to explore. You can make your way to many little coves and Bonsai Rock (see below). There is a small fee for parking, but it is for all day so it’s worth it to me. I thought I’d only spend an hour or two here, but to my pleasant surprise I stayed for 4-5 hours to watch the sun set.
This is one of Lake Tahoe’s most iconic photo spots and is located just two miles south of Sand Harbor. To get here, safely park along the road and head down the little hill. Keep an eye out for a big boulder a few trees on the top of it—this is Bonsai Rock! This spot is a great spot to stand-up paddleboard, kayak and swim. On that note, I wanted to mention that the water of Lake Tahoe is known to be very cold as it is an alpine lake. Know your limits and if your body is telling you that it’s not a fan, listen to it and warm up.
Some other spots in North Lake Tahoe that are definitely worth checking out are:
- Hidden Beach
- Flume Trail
- Shirley Canyon
- Five Lakes (Squaw Valley)
All photos in collaboration with Matthew Massa.